News & Articles

Marijuana and Non-Citizens

Published on August 2, 2018

We recommend that all non-U.S. citizens (including lawful permanent residents) be extremely careful in answering questions by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers at a U.S. port of entry (including a land border crossing or airport) regarding ANY prior use or possession of marijuana.  A noncitizen who admits to an immigration official that he or she possessed or has previously used marijuana may be found inadmissible, denied entry into the United States, and/or have his or her application for lawful status or naturalization denied. Depending on the circumstances, it can also make a lawful permanent resident deportable. This is true even if the conduct was permitted under state law, the person never was convicted of a crime, and/or the conduct took place in her own home. State laws legalizing marijuana make this especially important for individuals traveling to or from those states. In some states, such as Washington State, we have learned that Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and CBP agents are aggressively asking non-citizens if they ever have possessed or used marijuana.

The message is simple: Immigration law treats any marijuana-related activity as a crime, with harsh penalties, even if it is permitted under state law. Therefore, our advice is as follows:

  • Stay away from marijuana until you are a U.S. citizen.
  • If you truly need medical marijuana and there is not a good substitute, discuss this with an immigration attorney.
  • Do not carry marijuana, a medical marijuana card, or marijuana stickers, t-shirts, etc. Remove any text or photos relating to marijuana from your social media and phone.

If you have used marijuana or worked in the industry, consult with an immigration attorney before leaving the United States or applying for naturalization or immigration status.



Amy Royalty can be reached at 206-654-2260 or [email protected].
Jen Chen can be reached at 206.654.2250 or [email protected]
Marsha Mavunkel can be reached at 206.654.2253 or [email protected].
Joel Paget can be reached at 206.654.2215 or [email protected]
Janet Cheetham can be reached at 206.654.2235 or [email protected].

This message has been released by the Immigration Group at Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC to advise of recent developments in the law. Because each situation is different, this information is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any specific facts and circumstances. Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC is a full-service law firm located in Seattle, Washington.

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